Every company wants new customers - new prospects for growth. There's a reason everyone is always trying so hard to find the next opportunity for their company. New opportunities come with a whole string of benefits - boost in sales and increase in revenue. However, communicating with leads who are possible customers can be challenging at first.
Two years into the business, Fringe Data Services, understands the challenges of getting new marketing leads. Searching for new prospects is a never-ending struggle for its modestly-sized sales and marketing team. It takes plenty of time and tremendous effort with little return. Finding new opportunities is one of the most complex parts for most businesses. Moreover, the time invested in closing each lead impacts the overall number of deal closings.
Let's look at the typical breakdown of a rep's week as reported by Fringe Data Services. Reps spend excessive time chasing down leads instead of focusing on closing deals and building relationships with current customers. The sales teams lack the right processes to ensure their reps spend their time wisely.
Prospecting is a valuable part of the sales process, but it's not the only part. For any salesperson, prospecting is critical for growing a business. Sales prospecting tools are essential whether you're working in a telemarketing center or reaching out to leads from your cell phone. Research from CSO Insights shows that companies prioritizing prospecting over other sales and marketing activities tend to underperform their peers.
Sales leaders are well aware of the sales challenges; that's clear. But when we look at their focus on improving lead generation, it's a great indicator of how vital leads are to their success. Statistical modeling developed by Miller Heiman clarifies that improving revenue optimizes the lead generation process for better outreach and prospecting. Studies show that 40% of sales leaders agree with the approach to fine-tune prospecting.
What is Sales Prospecting?
Sales Prospecting is the first step in what could eventually become a sale for your business. While prospects are possible customers, prospecting is finding likely customers. It is the process of qualifying and generating new sales leads. Sales reps use prospecting to expand the size of their potential customer base. The focus is to connect to leads who are potential sales contacts and nurture them into opportunities. With a sales prospecting platform, the team reaches out, establishes a familiarity, talks about the product or service, and then identifies details such as when to get back in touch. There are various sales prospecting techniques, from making calls to sending direct mail, attending networking events, and connecting on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Today, prospecting is necessary to sustain growth. At the same time, it is also an art form and a highly scientific practice. The team uses a variety of tactics and intelligence toward new selling opportunities, communicating with leads who are possible customers and establishing a bond.
The Stages of Sales Prospecting
Sales can be an intensive job. Prospecting encompasses various activities to find leads, generate interest, and turn them into customers. It is an intensive process that often leaves salespeople drained, frustrated, and burned out. A salesperson needs to understand the nuances of locating a new customer and nurturing leads throughout the sales process. For success, the knowledge of the basics of sales prospecting is vital. Familiarizing with the various sales process stages helps spot bottlenecks and refine the overall strategy.
At the heart of prospecting are several stages, each with its purpose. These stages overlap from lead generation to closing, and they play a crucial role in generating interest and turning leads into customers. By following these stages with the right approach and time management skills, you can increase your productivity, reduce stress, and build a steady flow of new customers.
Research your prospect and business
Before contacting your target customer, it's important to conduct research and gain a better understanding of them. This research allows you to grasp their background and the specific problem they're facing. By knowing your customer well, you can focus on finding a solution to their problem. Utilizing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can be beneficial in providing an overview of all prospects on your leads list. The insights derived from CRM data guide your actions and approach when connecting with each prospect. Conducting pre-call background research sets your sales connection in the right direction and increases the likelihood of finding genuine prospects.
Prioritize your prospects
Prioritizing your prospects at the beginning of the sales process is crucial. The goal is to invest your time, money, and energy in those who are most likely to buy from you. Sales prospecting software can be helpful in identifying top-priority leads and focusing your efforts on them. In this stage, the aim is to determine if the prospect is interested. Start by prioritizing contacts based on their workability. Then, develop a connection through personalization, rapport building, and trust development. Once you've assessed the likelihood of someone buying, include them in the appropriate number of sales calls and follow up accordingly.
Personalize your pitch for each prospect
To initiate a fruitful discussion with your prospects, gather in-depth information about them. Learn about their business and their role within it. This information allows you to tailor your pitch and connect with them on a personal level. You can source information from various internet references, such as social media profiles, published content, and company websites. However, the most reliable information often comes directly from your prospects. Don't hesitate to ask them about themselves and their business. Start by asking industry-relevant questions, then delve into inquiries about their specific role in the company. Find out if the problem you're trying to solve is still relevant to them. Personalize the conversation and address your prospect's unique situation with specific solutions.
Provide support rather than sell
Ensure that your conversations with prospects focus on building a deeper connection and gaining their trust. Instead of simply trying to sell your product or service, aim to provide support and value. Engage in warm and friendly conversations that make the prospect feel comfortable and open. Communication should be a two-way street, benefiting both parties. Remember that prospects are individuals, not just numbers on a list. Be human in your interactions and personalize the conversation based on the information you have about the prospect. Adding personal touches, such as acknowledging special occasions, adds a human touch to your prospecting efforts. Regularly nurture your prospects and genuinely care about solving their problems. Building trust is crucial for converting a one-time sale into a long-term business relationship. Keep the conversation natural and casual, focusing on building strong and lasting relationships over time.
Self-reflect on the prospecting process
As a salesperson, it's important to continually self-reflect on your prospecting process. Businesses are always engaged in sales activities, whether it's directly asking for a sale or promoting products and services to consumers. Reflecting on your sales prospecting techniques helps you improve your conversations and become more effective. Upskilling your conversation skills is vital for successful sales. Understand how to tailor your talks to meet the specific needs of each prospect. Continuously learn and adapt your approach based on feedback and results. By self-reflecting and improving your prospecting process, you can enhance your sales conversations and increase your chances of success.
By reflecting on your discussions and looking at their commonalities, you can learn how to improve your sales skills. Noting the activities in your past conversations that helped make the conversation more successful is a good practice. Another way is documenting the activities that took the conversation off track and allowed for a better understanding of the prospect's needs.
Additionally, your sales team should have a pathway for the sales prospecting process. With a set sales route and defined milestones, you can ensure progress from one prospect to another.
How has Sales Prospect Changed Over the Years?
Sales prospecting has evolved over the years. In the past, shooting multiple bulk emails and making cold calls was common practice for most sales teams. While these outreach methods of cold calls and blast emails are of some relevance today, they are becoming overused.
Today, the clients are more sophisticated, seeking genuine interest over sales speak. Moreover, leads conduct more than half of their initial research online and embark on a path to potential purchase through the internet. In today's multi-channel marketing world, companies need to make their information as accessible as possible. But to do that effectively, brands have to be able to connect with clients 24/7/365!
The preferred way to do this is by creating a comprehensive RFP system that informs and educates your target customers on all aspects of your product or service. Today, decisions are not taken by individuals. Businesses have committees for taking decisions. For sales, a professional RFP team is a must these days. Requests for proposals (RFPs) play a pivotal role before a target customer establishes contact after doing the research.
As you know, the choice for target customers nowadays isn't just about what's cheapest. Many buyers go straight for the source when learning about products and services. Communicating your ideas and guiding your recommendations through a comprehensive strategy is recommended.
Here are some integral pointers to understand the character of prospects:
Prospects are active on digital platforms
As prospects become more active on digital platforms, selling on social media sites is becoming increasingly common. Social media aids your business in reaching out to new opportunities through your company's owned and earned handles. It also allows you to develop relationships with current clients who share likes and interests via the same channels. Enterprises use these social media analytics to engage and target potential customers across social media platforms. The digital channel has helped increase awareness for various brands across the globe.
Prospects are flooded with several messages
Prospects today receive dozens or even hundreds of messages throughout the day. Resultantly, they've learned to pick out what's worthwhile from what doesn't quite make sense right away. Their ignorance doesn't mean they're not interested. The fact is your prospects are overwhelmed with sales messages. To stand out from the crowd, make your interactions meaningful and present your brand as having a solution to their problem. You're more likely to build trust and loyalty and be seen as a brand that cares. Make relationships first, then do business!
Prospects seek more out of interactions
When a prospect is ready to purchase, they need to trust the company and the business. Future customers seek to establish trust, gather essential information, and add value to their knowledge through every interaction with the company. Additionally, there are several factors that consumers consider when making this decision. The sales team needs to pay attention to these wants and needs and see how they can tailor their product offerings accordingly. Unique gestures such as deals or customizations improve the likelihood of acquiring a new customer. Businesses can customize their language, tone, and resources to resonate with customers' needs. With advances in information technology, data gathering, and analytics, you can tailor content based on the specific needs of the person engaging with the brand or product. In the end, your prospect is seeking a positive experience, and today it is a necessary step in the sales process.
How to Find New Sales Prospects?
Salespeople use the prospecting process to grow their pipeline of potential customers by contacting leads and nurturing them into opportunities. While starting a new relationship with a new prospect can be thrilling, finding a new lead requires more than just a few days; and a lot of effort. Finding new sales prospects is time-consuming and challenging for most companies, especially their sales team. In today's highly competitive environment, generating and converting as many sales leads as possible into paying customers is essential for every company. So, you should have a sound strategy to achieve this in the long run. There are various ways to find new prospects – email marketing, cold calls, and knocking on people's doors. But some are more effective than others. Here are some best practices to generate more qualified leads from potential customers who perfectly fit your offer:
Follow your prospect before you connect
Following your prospects on social media can be a simple way to gain insight into the inner workings of their business, but not many salespeople think to do it. Social media is necessary for companies to build connections with their clients and find new customers. In other words, social media channels are a goldmine of sales leads. Still, it's essential to approach it carefully to reduce the amount of time you spend trying to find and connect with prospects while also increasing your time following up with them.
Find them in groups
Gone are the days when you send an email out to people and wait for someone to respond. Today, you will be able to find your prospects in online communities. No matter what industry you're in, your business is likely already in some group. If you're going to take advantage of social media, joining groups and communicating with people is the best place to start. As you build your business, you need to be where people gather. You can find clients on social media groups or forums with high-profile reach. With social media, connecting with the right prospect is making yourself available and being active enough in the group to communicate with others.
Show interest in your prospect's ideas
When reaching out to potential customers, it's crucial to find a way to get them to open up. A smart way is to form a connection centered on their needs and interests. After establishing a rapport, you can better understand their requirements and find opportunities to sell your product or service. The more you know about them, the more you can highlight the value of what you are offering. A personalized pitch lets you stand out in their crowded inbox! As with everything in marketing and advertising, your chances of getting a sale go up exponentially when you can capture their attention and get them to engage with your message.
Find out more on the nuances of expanding your list of sales prospects, right here: How To Find New Sales Prospects: A Complete Guide To Finding & Attracting More Customers!
How to Approach a New Sales Prospect?
Sales processes are geared up and designed towards the ultimate goal of closing a deal. The focus on sales closing is desirable, but it is not absolute. Many argue that the manner of starting a sales conversation holds much bearing on the way it leads into the sales funnel. It is your chance to kickstart a strong relationship with the customer. Therefore, it is best to plan the talking points. When approaching a new prospect, the intent is to make them feel comfortable. Prospect researching is a good starting point. Comprehensive knowledge of your customer enhances your ability to connect with them better and eventually transform them into your customer. You can choose to model the first conversation with a problem-listening and solution-offering mindset.
Keep information at your fingertips through CRM
Utilize the power of a CRM
Customer Relationship Management is a tool developed to help salespeople manage their leads. A Sales CRM system organizes this information and provides data about past interactions with the presented sales services or products. As a salesperson in today's market, you need a central location to store data on customers, prospects, and partners. CRMs help manage important contacts, organize existing customers, and modify data effortlessly. Also, the system provides clarity and insight to help the customer service process. Many CRM systems can even connect to industry-specific databases to provide information on a company and its competitors.
One of the essential pieces of sales is research. Prospect research is critical to your sales pitch and how you deliver it. Most people think of research at the point of purchase - this is backward thinking. Understanding a company's goals, values, and mission will allow you to personalize your offer so that it sparks an interest in your product/service. When approaching a customer to ask them to buy something, you need to remember that it takes serious effort to make and maintain a business relationship lasting many years based on trust and credibility. Research gives you the edge in speaking to the prospect who has a more accurate portrait of their problem space and how to optimize for that experience.
Find the right channel
The future of marketing and lead generation is here. Digital channels have become essential for businesses to reach their customers. Today, it is necessary for companies to use effective online media to generate sales leads to achieve their revenue goals. Understanding how each channel works, finding the ideal approach to them, and setting goals with metrics are ultimately necessary to make lead prospecting work for your business. Companies invest time and money into digital channels like social media, mobile apps, and email marketing. Marketers must innovatively exploit each of these channels to reach consumers on the move. Successful sales do not happen by chance; careful planning and organization are behind it. Finding the right customer can be very difficult; it requires a lot of determination and patience to get through all the crowds of prospects.
How to Qualify a Sales Prospect?
Qualifying leads and prospects influence the success of your sales process tremendously. For a salesperson, finding and selling to the right prospect is crucial. However, identifying the right lead is where many salespeople fail. Getting a customer interested in purchasing without a qualifying process becomes more difficult. On the other hand, qualifying leads and prospects based on a potential buyer's suitability, interest, and purchasing power plays a significant role in selling. A comprehensive leads qualification ensures higher closing ratios. Qualified candidates are more likely to be influenced by you and buy the product or service that you're selling. Before starting a sales campaign, it is good practice to compile a list of prospective clients. You can categorize the prospects with high and low buying intent. With this insight, your sales process is better equipped to target the high qualifying prospects on priority.
Here are a few steps you can go through to know which buyer qualifies to be a high priority on your list:
How to Move Sales Prospects to the Next Stage?
Moving sales prospects to the next stage requires a strategic approach to nurture the relationship and guide them through the sales funnel. Here are some effective tactics to advance your prospects to the next stage:
- Build rapport and establish trust: Focus on building a strong relationship with your prospects by understanding their needs, challenges, and goals. Engage in meaningful conversations and demonstrate your expertise and credibility to earn their trust.
- Provide personalized solutions: Tailor your offerings to align with the specific needs and pain points of your prospects. Show them how your product or service can solve their problems and bring value to their business. Customization and personalization go a long way in capturing their interest.
- Offer compelling value: Highlight the unique value proposition of your product or service. Clearly communicate the benefits and advantages it provides over competitors. Showcase case studies, testimonials, or success stories to illustrate how your offering has helped similar businesses achieve their goals.
- Address objections and concerns: Anticipate and address any objections or concerns your prospects may have. Listen actively to their feedback and respond with relevant information that alleviates their doubts. Provide clear and concise answers to their questions and demonstrate that you understand their hesitations.
- Follow up consistently: Stay on top of your prospects' minds by following up consistently and promptly. Use various communication channels such as phone calls, emails, or even personalized video messages to maintain regular contact. Offer additional resources or insights that can assist them in their decision-making process.
- Provide educational content: Share informative and educational content that positions you as a trusted advisor in your industry. This could include blog posts, whitepapers, webinars, or industry reports. Deliver value through educational content that helps prospects make informed decisions.
- Demonstrate social proof: Leverage social proof to enhance your credibility. Showcase positive reviews, testimonials, or case studies that highlight the success of your existing customers. This can instill confidence in your prospects and increase their willingness to move forward.
- Create a sense of urgency: Encourage prospects to take action by creating a sense of urgency. Limited-time offers, exclusive discounts, or bonuses can motivate them to make a decision sooner rather than later. Clearly communicate the benefits of acting now to avoid missing out on valuable opportunities.
By implementing these strategies, you can effectively guide your sales prospects through the various stages of the sales process and increase the likelihood of converting them into paying customers.
The Stages of Sales Prospecting
Sales prospecting involves a series of stages aimed at finding and converting leads into customers. Understanding these stages is essential for salespeople to effectively navigate the prospecting process. While the timeline for each stage may vary, there are typically four key stages that sales professionals should be aware of:
- Lead Generation: This stage focuses on identifying and generating leads, which are potential customers who have expressed interest in your product or service. Lead generation methods can include online marketing campaigns, networking events, referrals, and cold outreach. The goal is to create a pool of leads that can be further qualified.
- Lead Qualification: In this stage, leads are evaluated to determine their potential as customers. The qualification process involves gathering more information about the leads to assess their fit for your offering. This may include factors such as their needs, budget, decision-making authority, and timeline. Effective lead qualification helps prioritize efforts on leads with the highest probability of converting.
- Nurturing and Relationship Building: Once leads have been qualified, the focus shifts to nurturing and building relationships with them. This involves ongoing communication and engagement to understand their pain points, provide relevant information, address their concerns, and position your product or service as a solution. Building trust and credibility is crucial at this stage.
- Closing and Conversion: The final stage is the conversion of leads into customers. It involves presenting your offering, negotiating terms, addressing objections, and ultimately securing the sale. Effective sales techniques, persuasive communication, and a deep understanding of the prospect's needs are key in this stage.
It's important to note that these stages are not strictly linear and may overlap or require revisiting. Successful sales prospecting requires a systematic approach, effective communication skills, and the ability to adapt to each prospect's unique circumstances. By mastering these stages, sales professionals can optimize their prospecting efforts and increase their chances of converting leads into long-term customers.